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Japan: Land of the rising silence

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Japan Earthquake? semiconductor sector? nuclear radiation?

I landed here in late May for my first trip to Japan since the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

While the reason for my visit was to see my aging mother, I arrived with much trepidation!largely driven by what I didn't know. I had no real feel for the magnitude of impact the recent disaster must have had on the country and its people. Everything I learned about what happened on March 11th!and what I deduced about it!seemed almost theoretical.

Walking through the customs at Narita airport initially calmed me. People, places and things were as efficient, clean and as orderly as always. Nothing at Narita was broken; the whole scene screamed out the Japanese national motto: "Business as usual."

The rude awakening, however, hit when I attempted to buy a train ticket at the airport. Narita Express trains are running on an irregular schedule, "due to the Great Tohoku Kanto earthquake," according to a woman at the Japan Railway ticket counter. The next available Narita Express train I could take wasn't due for three hours. While surprised, I told myself, "Oh, well. So, I'll take the bus to Yokohama."

Arriving at Yokohama station after 90 minutes on the bus, I discovered that Japan Railway had stopped running every escalator to every platform at every station. I could either hike up a stairway that looked like it went to the stars, or I could line up at one lonesome elevator!which I did, not because I'm not fit, but because I was schlepping a suitcase. I looked wistfully at a nearby escalator, chained and motionless, bearing a notice that read: "Please cooperate with us in conserving energy."

In the public restroom at the station, the toilets!thank God!were flushing. Everything seemed normal until I went to dry my hands. Every dryer had a notice, saying: "Please cooperate with us in conserving energy."

I walked out waving my hands, and resigned to the message of post-tsunami Japan. Forget the little conveniences we've all come to take for granted. It's post-war all over again!and saving energy was everybody's job, just like it had been in 1946.

Finally installed on a local train, I opened a newspaper. While the Asahi Shimbun had a number of stories related to the quake's aftermath, the most eye-catching was a large map of Tohoku and Kanto.

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